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Quebec’s health minister said a vaccination passport system will be put in place on September 1 to tackle the increase in COVID-19 cases and an “inevitable” fourth wave.
“Given the increase in cases, the fall to come with the start of the school year and the return to work and the expected prevalence of the delta variant, the conditions are met to deploy the vaccine passport,” said Christian Dubé.Dubé unveiled some details about the system, announced last week by Prime Minister François Legault, alongside two public health officials – Dr Yves Jalbert, strategic medical advisor, and Caroline Roy, advisor on issues related to the COVID-19 vaccination campaign.
Dubé says the systems will be implemented in high capacity, high contact rate locations, such as festivals, bars, restaurants, gyms and training facilities to avoid the widespread closures that have marked the first waves of COVID-19 in Quebec.
At this time, the vaccination passport will not be used in retail stores or schools.
Asked about religious gatherings and weddings, Dubé said the government was still discussing whether or not they would be included in events that will require vaccine passports.
WATCH | Quebec Health Minister Christian Dubé unveils the details of the vaccination passport:
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Dubé stressed that the system is the only way to keep the economy open while protecting the healthcare system from being overwhelmed like it was in previous waves. He says that a fourth wave, driven by the delta variant, is “inevitable” in Quebec.
While patrons of some non-essential services, like bars, will need to be vaccinated and have a QR code to prove it, the same will not be required of staff. Dubé says requiring staff vaccines would violate labor laws.
The passport will be used on an application which is being tested this week. Two pilot projects are planned: one in a sports bar in Quebec City starting Wednesday for two days, another next week in a gymnasium in the Vimont district of Laval, just north of Montreal.
Dubé says the government wants the smartphone app ready for use across the province by September, although people who do not have smartphones will be able to use paper vaccination certificates issued at vaccination centers. .
Dube says the app will read the QR code sent to people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19, adding that businesses and customers will need to download the software.
As for what kind of data does the app collect? “None… It’s just a reading application, that’s all,” Dubé said.
So far, 84 percent of Quebecers have received a first dose, Dubé said Tuesday.
He said he would like everyone who received a dose to receive a second by the end of the month, which means 1.1 million doses are due by August 31.
“A useful tool”
Dr Gaston De Serres, a medical epidemiologist at the province’s public health institute, believes that a vaccination passport system would be well suited to encourage adults between the ages of 20 and 39 to get vaccinated. Vaccine reservations already exploded after Legault’s announcement last week.
“We need to improve vaccination coverage in these age groups which, at present, is clearly insufficient,” said De Serres, noting that the group’s vaccination rate was below the threshold of 75 percent of the population. province. He says this age group accounts for about 50 percent of new cases in the province.
“So the vaccination passport in this regard is certainly a useful tool to encourage people to get vaccinated. ”
The Quebec Civil Liberties Union, the League of Rights and Freedoms (LDL), however, takes issue with the vaccine passport system, saying there has not been time for real public debate and citing concerns about data security.
<p>"Une chose qui nous dérange en ce moment, c'est que le passeport vaccinal est présenté comme s'il s'agissait d'une sorte de solution miracle", a déclaré la coordinatrice du LDL Catherine Descoteaux, qui veut éviter "de créer un faux sentiment de sécurité dans le population » alors que l'immunité collective n'est pas encore atteinte au Québec.</p> <p>Le Québec sera la première province canadienne à exiger deux doses du vaccin COVID-19 pour accéder à certains services, bien que le Manitoba et l'Île-du-Prince-Édouard aient des mesures similaires.</p></div>